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Recording Electric Guitar

Transcript
So here we are. Hope you’re all doing marvelously well, and we are going to film a video now with Alex from the Recording Connection, and it is about recording electric guitars, and I’m going to throw a real curve ball at Eric. Eric, Yamaha gave us a brand new electric guitar. Why don’t we use that. Why don’t we unbox it and get it on video?

Let’s do it! Okay, this is very exciting. Oh, they gave me a case! God bless them. So this is like the newer model. Now — it’s kind of heavy. Unbox it. We’re going to uncase it, so anybody tell it’s 1:15 in the morning? Oh, that’s rather gorgeous! That’s rather nice, isn’t it? It’s made in Japan. It’s Japanese. Beautiful looking.

[guitar]

Oh, it’s so well setup, it’s ridiculous. That is amazing. Okay, Yamaha, you rock. So now we have a guitar to try out our miking techniques. Thank you ever so much, Yamaha. Absolutely gorgeous.

Alright, so here we are. We’ve got our Tone Tubby, we’ve got my Marshall JMP in there. So we’re going to talk about a couple of different ways to mic. So let’s go logically. Here’s the middle of the cab about. In the center of the cone is a dust cap. Sometimes it’s made of metal, sometimes it’s made of a cardboard-y cloth kind of material. Whatever it’s made of, that is the brightest part of the speaker.

So if I put the microphone right there, I’m going to get the brightest tone. I don’t typically do that. What I typically do is I go somewhere in the middle of the cone. So I go towards the middle and then go — with a 12 inch cab, come out just a few inches. That’s pretty standard.

So what I’m going to do is we’re going to put a 57 here and then we’re going to use a Lewitt 550. LCT550. A large diaphragm condenser. Check on the settings. It is set at 0dB, linear, no rolloff, so it’s set flat basically. What we’re going to do, is we’re going to put it in a similar place on the other side of the dust cap. So kind of similar. This is not absolute science, but it’s going to give us an idea. So we’re going to get to hear what it’s like using a condenser and using a 57.

Now, 57s are pretty much industry standard when it comes to recording guitars. Another trick we’re going to do on the back, put another 57 on the back of the speaker, and that is near as darn it is going to be opposite this microphone here. Now, you might ask why I’m going to do that? Well, a lot of low end comes through the back, hence the open back cab. So what we do is we flip the polarity, or what some people say, we flip the phase, we’re going to flip the polarity.

Because think about it logically, if the speaker is pushing air this way, the microphone that’s pointed is going to see the waveform coming at it like this, the other one is going to see it reversed.

So for proper polarity, we take this microphone, take the reverse microphone in the back, and we flip the phase so they are both hearing the signal the same way. Same way you would with the top and bottom snare, top and bottom toms, you always take the bottom mic and you reverse the polarity.

I will say if you’re recording incredibly loud amplifiers, you might want to pull the mic back if the sound pressure levels are so high, like with a condenser, they’re overloading the condenser.

Now, another common one we could do is they use ribbon mics as well, which traditionally is really good on very, very bright, incredibly bright amps, I’ll put a ribbon on there because it controls the top end. On this particular setup, with a Tone Tubby, just for my preference, with the Tone Tubby cab, these are a little darker.

That’s why I actually like them. A lot of heavy rock guitar players are starting to use them, because we all have our Marshalls. Marshalls are freaking awesome, but they are the brightest, loudest things on the planet, and this, I’m starting to find — a lot of guys are starting to find is a perfect combination for a really, really loud, bright amp, because there’s something about a Marshall which is still to me the sound of Rock and Roll.

And I still have a 412. You’ve probably seen lots in my videos. Since moving to this, it’s revolutionized my guitar sound, because I used to use an Egnator, which is a lot darker, a lot fatter sounding amp, and I was using my JMP, and I was a little disappointed, and I started trying out other amps. I got this cab, now I’m very happy, and my JMP now is suddenly absolutely perfect. Because it’s not always about just the amp or the cab, it’s the combination.

So let’s move on and let’s listen to these three different mics. We’re going to use the same kind of mic pre, BAE 312 on each one of these, and you’ll get to see how they work.

Okay, so what we did is we padded the 550 12dB. Yeah, it was loud. I mean, that’s the thing about condensers, they’re a lot more sensitive.

So 57 front.

[guitar, 57]

57 back on its own.

[guitar, 57 back]

Definitely loads of low end.

Then the Lewitt.

[guitar, Lewitt]

I mean, the Lewitt is pretty nice. Definitely more of a full range sound, you get more low end.

[guitar]

Just the 57. Let’s listen to just the 57 on its own.

[guitar, 57 front]

I mean, it’s interesting. That 57 probably doesn’t need any EQ. Or it doesn’t need the low end taken away, but I mean, that’ll cut. Go back to the Lewitt. So a condenser is pretty full range sound.

We did do a 12dB pad on this. Condensers are a lot more sensitive, a lot higher output, so we padded it down. Now what we’re going to do is we’re going to record all of the mics.

[guitar]

Now, sounds pretty hollow. Why does it sound hollow? Because the back is almost exactly out of phase with the front. So if we measure this waveform to here, in samples, it says 41. So we’ll turn on our time adjuster. 41. Here’s with our polarity exactly flipped.

[guitar, polarity flipped]

The low end is in there.

[guitar, 57 front and back]

So try turning the polarity on and off. Oh yeah, massive.

But I do think it’s a little much with the back mics. So I’m going to pull the back mic down a little bit.

[guitar, polarity off]

It’ll be interesting to hear the Lewitt front mic with the 57. We’re going to have to turn this off, so we’ll bypass it here and listen to that.

[guitar, Lewitt and 57]

It’s a little, [imitates guitar] in the mid-range. Definitely a lot more low end.

Turn this back on.

[guitar, 57 front and back]

I think I definitely prefer the sound of the 57 front and the 57 back to the Lewitt and the 57 together.

Start to look at the polarity and see how it is. Yeah, it looks pretty darn good. You look at the waveforms there, it’s pretty accurate. So it’s not an issue of phase, they’re together.

[guitar]

It just sounds a little dark, it doesn’t have that detail in the top end, where if we put the back in with the front and line up the polarity…

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[guitar]

So my choices would be this…

[guitar, 57 front and back]

Against just the Lewitt.

[guitar, Lewitt]

So the condenser on its own is actually pretty darn tasty, but… I would argue that’s the best guitar sound depending on how much low end you want from the back mic.

So, I think what we need to do now is change the Lewitt out and put the ribbon in there and see how the ribbon sounds. So let’s stick in the Sontronics Delta.

Okay, so now we have the Sontronics Delta in, which interestingly enough takes phantom.

[guitar, Sontronics]

It’s nice. I like it. A lot of low end. Let’s go back to the 57.

[guitar, 57]

Yeah, bratty, punk, I think it’s great. Two together.

[guitar, Sontronics and 57]

That’s better than the condenser and the 57. At least to me it is.

That’s nice. Let’s listen to the condenser. Condenser and 57. Ribbon. Yeah, ribbon and 57 is pretty amazing.

Yeah, it’s mid-rangey and aggressive in some ways, but the ribbon and the 57 is like… So now we just have to decide is that better?

So this is going to be 57 back mic.

[guitar, 57 back]

So that’s Sontronics and 57 front.

[guitar, ribbon and 57]

Now we’re going to go 57 and 57 back.

[guitar, 57s]

Wow. I’m going to have to go with ribbon front and 57 front. They’re basically both spaced either side of the center of the cone, so they’re as close to being in phase the distance away, but it’s pretty darn good. Those two together.

[guitar, ribbon and 57]

So I think I’d probably blend them a little differently, I might bring the Sontronics down, the ribbon down a little bit. But that’s pretty tasty. It’d be great to take those two and buss them together through one compressor. I like it.

So look, there’s many ways to skin a cat, as they say. I think that we did the Lewitt, which is a great mic, but I think that there’s tons of other condensers that might sound completely different, but in this test here, you can definitely tell you can get some lows and some low mids by putting the back mic on and flipping the polarity, so it’s better phase. That’s really cool, I do that a lot. But often to be frank, I do that with just a 57. Just a 57 front. And it’s…

[guitar, 57 front]

It sounds good. Probably a little extra lows on the amp. But putting that ribbon on, even just a bit lower…

[guitar]

I love that. It’s tasty. Yup. And you know, we can bring — like I said, if we had a room with a little bit more ambience, I’d pull the mic back. There’s always a fear, and you can tell this happens a little bit here, that with — this is what you get with ribbons. They’ll clip quite easily. So I would probably bring my amp master down just a tiny bit. It’s on the verge. I mean, it’s cranked in there.

[guitar]

I mean, typically ribbon mics do not take as high a sound pressure level. So yeah, I would probably bring that down two or three dB on my amp going into it. I’ll still get the sound I want. I drive my amp anyway with a boost pedal going in quite heavily, so I don’t need the output stage to be quite as cranked as we’ve got it, but either way, I think in this instance, they all sound good, but the best combination is ribbon with a 57.

But that’s the great thing about doing this. I mean, you can create tones completely. You’ve got three really — well, four distinct guitar sounds. 57…

[guitar, 57 front]

Ribbon mic on its own too.

[guitar, ribbon]

57 and the ribbon.

[guitar, 57 and ribbon]

Which is really nice. Then 57 front and back.

[guitar, 57 front and back]

All great guitar sounds.

So whichever way you go, you’re going to get something cool, and it’s just great to have options. It’s interesting, because we’ve got one guitar with one amp, all using exactly the same mic pre, and we’re trying to get the levels somewhat even, all the differences are coming from the different mics. Totally different guitar sounds by using different microphones.

Frankly, the Lewitt is a relatively inexpensive mic, but a 57 you can get for around about $100 from Guitar Center.

So the moral of the story is you don’t have to spend a fortune. If you’ve got mics, try them out. See what you’ve got. We just threw up that Sontronics completely and utterly like, “Oh, it’s a ribbon mic and it’s sitting down there, let’s try it out.” My favorite sound is a 57 with a ribbon. Which is pretty classic, a lot of people use R121s. The Royers with 57s and get great tones.

So I hope you learned something. I did. Have a marvelous time recording and mixing, leave a bunch of comments and questions below, and we’ll see you all again very soon. Oh, and thanks again Yamaha, this is amazing.

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at producelikeapro.com.

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